Monday, 28 May 2012

AJ Smith - A new beginning

AJ Smith has been the GM for the Chargers since 2003 after being promoted from the assistant GM role. He has been described by critics as an arrogant man but also as a specialist at drafting. He has made some amazing picks in the past coupled with some poor ones. He hasn't yet got the Chargers to a Superbowl which is every General Manager's ultimate goal, but can he get the Chargers there over the next few years?

Firstly, AJ Smith has consistently given the team a realistic chance to go out and win it all which is the main job of a GM. The way NFL analysts seem to predict a Charger every year for the past 5 or 6 years is a compliment to AJ's ability as a GM.  He had that magical draft in 2004 where he took Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman, Nick Hardwick, Shaun Phillips and Michael Turner. AJ aslo signed Antonio Gates in 2003 as an undrafted free agent. This gained him the reputation of a top class GM and was highly respected around the league.

Since 2004 Smith has been much less spectacular. Smith made a mess of the situation with top coach Schottenheimer by replacing him with Norv Turner. He also lost players like Merriman and Turner in free agency. Draft busts like Buster Davis and Larry English now come to mind when thinking of AJ's recent drafts. Corey Liuget was similarly unspectacular last year but he needs a few more years of playing time until we put the bust label on him. These poor offseasons over recent years made the Chargers an 8-8 team in 2011. However I think AJ has finally hit the jackpot this year with a special draft.

In this year's draft, Charger fans were crossing every finger, toe and whatever else they could in the hope that AJ would select Melvin Ingram, one of the biggest draft day tumbles of 2012. For once our hopes were met with relief rather than anger. Smith took the best player on the board who should have been a top 10 pick in Ingram providing the Chargers with a pass rushing machine who could well have a similar effect as Merriman did in his early years with the Chargers. Then came Reyes, a late 1st round to early 2nd round talent being picked up in the middle of the second. Other picks like Ladarius Green and Brandon Taylor were similarly smart picks and for the first time in a while I can say the Chargers and Smith did great. Add in his free agency additions and the Chargers are in much better shape than they were this time last year. The only thing AJ now needs to do is retain his key players for a long time like he did with Eric Weddle last year and the Chargers have the chance of finally winning that Superbowl trophy.

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